Bullying and self harm. A parent’s nightmare, a 12 year old child self harms and attempts suicide. The reason, bullying at school. The parents and family post a passionate plea on Facebook for help. They need to make someone accountable for their son’s situation.
The school is in the firing line for not doing more to prevent bullying. Given the high priority and community awareness surrounding bullying it is difficult to accept the school has done nothing. The post indicates one of the children was suspended for three days. The parents and family are also suggesting there has been no support from the public health system.
While the community grieves for this child – what is it the family want? What is the community supposed to do?
How do we stop and or control bullying? The frameworks are in place. Schools suspend perpetrators when bullying is identified and substantiated. They have zero tolerance procedures in place. Do they suspend children indefinitely? Are there counselors in place can attendance to counselling be made mandatory? Is counselling offered to both parties? In reality what can the school do ? What action punitive or otherwise can they legally take?
There are more questions than answers. Teachers are not meant to be police officers, counselors, or paramedics and social workers and have more responsibilities today than ever before.
What is the role of the parent? How has the victim been supported within the family? Are we making the situation worse by using the terms victim, bully or perpetrator? Are there less stereotyped terms that could be applied?
What makes someone a victim and another person a bully? Why does bullying occur? Bullies may have a role model within their family circle. We see bullying in the animal kingdom. It is called the survival of the fittest and establishing a pecking order. Now thats fine for the animal kingdom but humans are supposed to be more evolved and use reasoning rather than brute force to settle disputes or confrontations.
How does the community, education system or the health system support these individuals who are subjected to bullying and its side effects? Bullying is not sexist. Girls can be as vicious in their behaviour as boys. How do we support those who are causing the problems? Is it an anger management issue? Would cognitive behavourial therapy help?
Perhaps if the community as a whole stopped accepting and mirroring the unacceptable behaviours that bombard us via the media and in the form of reality TV and so called celebrity outbursts and some of the belittling memes and posts on social media, outlooks and behaviours may change..
You can throw money and resources into this mix forever but, unless we understand the why, nothing will change. Children need to feel safe and secure in their environment. Parents need to understand and be accountable for their children. Parents need to parent and support their children teaching them right from wrong and not expect others to fill this void. The role of a parent is to help the child to grow, to educate, love and support.
Respect appears to be lacking in many areas of our lives. Respect for self, others and the community and the world at large. Christians may use the phrase from the Bible about treating others as you would like to be treated; all faiths have a similar tenet of compassion and respect.
I am not suggesting that any specific family has not been aware or supported their child, However , there are dysfunctional families who are not supportive or even aware of what is happening within their family. How do we help the children of these families?
Open communication and awareness knowing your child and recognising when something is not right is an imperative.
No family should experience the pain of a child attempt to commit suicide and the subsequent results of that action. The questions remain what can the done via official channels and what can the community do to help?
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
Lawrence Mbogoni, an African studies professor, wrote: “Proverb or not, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ reflects a social reality some of us who grew up in rural areas of Africa can easily relate to. As a child, my conduct was a concern of everybody, not just my parents, especially if it involved misconduct. Any adult had the right to rebuke and discipline me and would make my mischief known to my parents who in turn would also mete their own ‘punishment.’ The concern of course was the moral well-being of the community.”